Relapse Rates for Body Dysmorphia with Comorbid Mental Health Issues

Body dysmorphia (BDD) is a common and often chronic psychological condition. Comorbid issues, such as depression, make BDD hard to treat and reduce the chance of remission. BDD causes a preoccupation with appearance defects and body image that are often imaginary or distorted.

This obsession can be severe, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life, and can put people at a high risk for suicide. Therefore, it is important to ascertain the remission and relapse rates associated with BDD.

Katharine A. Phillips of the Rhode Island Hospital recently led a study examining partial remission, remission and relapse rates in a sample of 166 adults with BDD. She used data from a four year longitudinal study to determine what factors most influenced relapse, measured as symptom presence for at least two weeks. Participants were considered in full or partial remission when they met no criteria for BDD for at least eight weeks.

Phillips found that remission rates were much lower for BDD than for other psychological conditions. Specifically, the results revealed that only 20% of the participants would experience full remission over the 4 years. This is much lower than a 57% remission rate for depression as revealed in other studies. Additionally, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia all have been studied in other research and have produced higher remission rates than 20%.

Phillips also found that the longer a participant had BDD and the more severe the condition, the more chronic the symptoms and higher the chance of relapse. Surprisingly, although depression was the most common co-occurring psychological condition with BDD in this study, it did not affect the chronicity of BDD, but did negatively influence remission rates. As comorbidity is common in BDD, this result underscores the importance of identifying those with comorbid BDD and depression, or other issues, so that treatment can be focused to address all of the psychological problems. Phillips added, “Greater understanding of course of illness and predictors of course will enhance understanding and treatment of this often severe and understudied disorder.”

Reference:
Phillips, K. A., et al. (2013). A 4-year prospective observational follow-up study of course and predictors of course in body dysmorphic disorder. Psychological Medicine 43.5 (2013): 1109-17. ProQuest. Web.

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  • andrew

    andrew

    June 7th, 2013 at 4:07 AM

    This is not what I would have thought. Body dismorphia seems so strong in those who struggle with it that I naturally assumed that most would struggle with this off and on for all their lives. I have a hard time understanding how that light switch could be turned on and off and that one day they will just be fine with how they look when they have had those kind of thoughts for so long.

  • Maddie

    Maddie

    June 10th, 2013 at 4:29 AM

    As a female who has struggled with this myself, I can honestly tell you that no matter what you kind of know in your own head and what other people are telling you, until you really come to terms with your body and your size and become genuinely accepting of that, then there is no moving forward.

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